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Tuatara arrive at Kelly Tarlton's

  • Thursday 17th March 2016

Tuatara are now on display at Kelly Tarlton's for the first time! Tuatara, one of New Zealand's most iconic animals, are one of the world's least evolved and longest surviving species - having been alive since the time of the dinosaurs.

Our tuatara have been bred by the Southland Museum and Art Gallery as part of the national breeding programme which helps to re-stablish populations in the wild, and are on long term loan to Kelly Tarlton's to help raise awareness of these amazing creatures and their plight. Tuatara, an endangered species, once lived all over New Zealand but now can only be found in the wild on predator-free island sanctuaries.

Tuatara have a great cultural significance, being considered taonga, or treasure. The tuatara are on loan with the support from Ngati Koata, the kaitiaki (guardians) of the tuatara population at Southland Museum. While the animals will be housed at the aquarium, the guardianship will be passed to Ngati Whatua, our local iwi. This was transferred over in a special ceremony which took place today.

Recognising the unique cultural significance of these Tuatara, the staff at Kelly Tarlton's have made special preparations for their arrival. In addition to the reptile experience of various Kelly Tarlton's staff, we have carried out extensive research and worked closely with our partners, (including the Department of Conservation, Southland Museum and Art Gallery and Auckland Zoo), all of whom have shared with us their vast Tuatara husbandry expertise.

For more information about our tuatara, click here

  • The name "tuatara" comes from the Maori for "peaks on the back
  • Rats are considered the most serious threat to tuatara survival. Tuatara are slow breeders and cannot keep up with the rate that eggs and hatchlings are eaten by rats

  • Tuatara keep growing until they are around 30 years old, and can live to be over 100. They only have to breathe once an hour

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